Mr. Speaker, I thank the Minister for Status of Women for her statement and for the opportunity to offer some words of my own on behalf of the Liberal Party.
2011 marks the 100th year of International Women's Day, an event that is being marked in communities and in schools across Canada.
Women in Canada and around the world have gained much over the last 100 years, the right to vote, to work, to equal participation in government.
It is a testament to the women who came before, in civil society, this House and in the Senate, that I rise today to reply to a statement by a female cabinet member responsible for the status of women.
International Women's Day is an opportunity to celebrate these achievements, but also to reflect on how far we have to go and must go to achieve full gender equality and eradicate gender discrimination in its entirety.
Here in Parliament, less than 25% of members are women. Increasing women's participation in this important role would have an impact on how young women perceive themselves as well as on their country and the world.
Women in Canada also continue to earn, on average, less than men. Despite high educational attainment, this wage gap remains a reminder that we must provide the range of supports necessary so that women can enjoy full participation in our political and economic life.
While I share the minister's enthusiasm for the great potential of our young women and girls, I believe that this potential will never be fully realized and the wage gap never fully closed if these supports do not exist. The need for affordable, accessible child care remains great, and Canada has yet to adequately meet this challenge. The need for a national housing strategy is also urgent.
I would encourage the government to respond to the unanimous will of this House and implement a national violence against women prevention strategy. There is also an urgent need for a national action plan on human trafficking so that Canada's efforts in this area are comprehensive, coordinated and effective.
I recently attended the 55th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women. While there I heard a vision of a world “where women and men have equal rights and opportunities, and the principles of gender equality and women's empowerment are firmly integrated into the development, human rights, and peace and security agendas”.
We have already done much in Canada to promote these rights and provide these opportunities for women at home and abroad, but much remains to be done.
We in this House have both the mandate and the enormous responsibility to ensure that gender equality and equality of opportunity are real, so that women's potential and women's creativity can be fully embraced for a better future for all of us.